FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências Agrárias

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Ciência Animal e Veterinária (CECAV) [AGR-Norte-VilaReal-772] visitada em 22/01/2008

Classificação: Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
Goals, ongoing and planned projects, strategic development in the future.
This research unit had 3 research groups in the 2003-2006 assessment periods: 1. Animal Production 2. Food Safety and Toxicology and 3. Epidemiological Survey and Medicine of Animal Populations. It now proposes to divide 2 of the existing groups to give 6 research groups in the future.
Performance of the Unit during 2003-2006 and into 2007 has been generally good. It delivered well on its main objectives of strengthening scientific productivity, quality and diffusion, strengthening multi-disciplinarity, developing more collaboration nationally and internationally and enhancing training of post-graduates. Comparing 2003 with 2006, ISI articles increased from 17 to 34, PhD thesis from 2 to 6, attendance at international meetings from 32 to 72. These trends continued into 2007.
Publication have been generally in the better quality international journals for this area of research and reflect in the number of authors per publication the multi-disciplinary nature and collaborative character of the research projects undertaken. For example, 30% of ISI articles had 3 or more authors in 2007 compared with 18% in 2003 and 68% reflected international collaboration in 2007 compared with 29% in 2003. Involvement in EU projects is reflected in the 6% of total funding coming from this source.
There has been a very significant increase in postgraduate training reflected in the current 39 PhD students compared with an average of 6 PhD theses per annum in the earlier years of the review period.
Involvement in the running of conferences and seminars was satisfactory. Involvement with industry was also satisfactory reflected in the 7 projects part financed by industry and 6 projects carried out in collaboration with associations of producers, yielding 9% of the funding for the Unit.
Research facilities are rather basic and in need of upgrading and renewal. In particular, animal facilities need upgrading to meet welfare and environmental requirements. The panel noted with satisfaction the recent setting up of a “state-of-the-art” chemical analysis laboratory to be shared by this and other research units.
While the Unit has established itself as a very good regional centre in Portugal and a reasonably good research centre from a national/international perspective it has yet to develop the research competencies and facilities and individual researcher excellence that would make it an international standard research centre.
The existing research groups within the unit are rather diverse. The Food Safety and Toxicology group is small and lacking in critical mass and should consider ways of overcoming this such as joining another group or attracting additional researchers into the group.

The panel understands the rationale for proposing the subdivision of the Epidemiological Survey and Medicine of Animal Populations group into three groups based on the existing divisions of expertise areas within it. However, the panel recommends that rather than dividing into three smaller groups the existing unit should stay as one and develop a more cohesive and collaborative research strategy that would use and build on the overall strengths of the group.
The panel is of the opinion that the breakup of the Animal Production research group to separate out dairy research into a Dairy Cow – Breeding, Health and Welfare research group would give a rather small new group lacking critical mass and sufficient research excellence to make an impact. Such a new group would need to have clear support from the dairy industry nationally and would need to recruit additional high quality researchers in these areas. The panel recommends that the existing Animal Production research group should not subdivide; rather it should build on its strengths and develop a cohesive and collaborative research agenda in animal production that meets the needs of the region and nation.

Training of young researchers and students
Good

Organization of workshops
Satisfactory

Interdisciplinary activities
Satisfactory

Interactions with other national and international research units and companies
Good

Participation in international research programmes (EU etc.)
Below potential

Knowledge and technology transfer
Good

Outreach activities
Good

Attitude and work environment
Good

Most pertinent comments and recommendations
The panel recommends
- That rather than dividing into three smaller groups the existing unit should stay as one and develop a more cohesive and collaborative research strategy that would use and build on the overall strengths of the group.
- That the existing Animal Production research group should not subdivide; rather it should build on its strengths and develop a cohesive and collaborative research agenda in animal production that meets the needs of the region and nation.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Animal Production [RG-X-AGR-Norte-VilaReal-772-834]
The group shows good performance in the area of animal production research.
The panel considered that this group showed good performance in the area of animal production research. It had an applied research programme relevant to the region. Output was satisfactory with publications in the better journals for this research area. Output of Masters and PhD students was also good. The level of project funding was satisfactory. Involvement with industry and in conferences was also satisfactory. Overall the panel concluded that the group has been very successful in meeting its targets in terms of metrics over the period of

the review. However, the group needs to develop a more cohesive and strategic research agenda and to recruit into or develop in the group research competencies that would make it a more national and internationally recognised research centre in targeted areas of animal production.
Group organisation and leadership was considered satisfactory.
The climate for training of young researchers was very good
Animal Production [RG-AGR-Norte-VilaReal-772-1754]
The panel does not recommend the subdivision of the old Animal Production research group into two new groups by separating out Dairy cow - breeding, health and welfare. Please see comments on the old Animal Production group.
This "new" animal production research group has essentially the same researchers as the "old" animal production group under a new PI. The research priorities have changed a little reflecting, I presume, the changing scene in Portugal. I would expect that this research group would perform in the future in a manner similar to the past and continue to achieve a high level of scientific performance.
Dairy cow – breeding, health and welfare [RG-AGR-Norte-VilaReal-772-2892]
The panel does not agree with the proposal to separate out Dairy cow - breeding, health and welfare from the old Animal Production research group. Please see comments on the old Animal Production group
The concept of the group is sound and fits well into the general objectives and strategy of the unit
Based on the experience and quality of the involved researchers – based on the previous articles in the area – the group should be able to achieve its ambitions
The unit is striving at a holistic approach comprising research, consulting and outreach to society. How is this group concretely involved in that endeavour?
Are the stakeholders (farmers, cooperatives, dairy industry) involved in the planning and priority setting of the research? If yes, how is that organized? Any plans for international (EU) projects?
Epidemiological surveillance and animal health [RG-AGR-Norte-VilaReal-772-2946]
The panel does not agree with the proposal to break up the old "Epidemiological survey of relevant diseases of livestock animals and medicine of animal populations" research group into three new groups.
Please see the comments on the old group.
This group is relatively small, consists of only 5 members. The group starts from 2007 and there is no data on its funding or Ph.D. training, or on internationalization of the research. The IF figures of their previous publications look stable. With regard to the objectives and goals of research it needs enlargement and requirements for adequate equipment are reasonable. It is early to make an overall performance evaluation.
Epidemiological survey of relevant diseases of livestock animals and medicine of animal populations. [RG-X-AGR-Norte-VilaReal-772-836]
The research programme of this group was focused in a limited number of rather diverse areas where it had particular research competence. Output was very satisfactory with publications in journals with very good impact factors.
Involvement in training of young researchers and students was very good as was involvement in seminars, workshops etc and interaction with industry.
The panel did not agree with the proposal to break up this group into 3 smaller groups. While it understood the reasoning behind such a change which reflects the current sub-groupings within the group, the panel considers such small groups lack the critical mass to make real research impact.
It is recommended that the existing group should remain but develop a more strategic research agenda that meets regional and national needs in its area. And develop more collaboration and multidisciplinary approaches both within the group and with other research groups nationally and internationally. The group seems to operate as 3 subgroups but quite successfully as such. It would benefit from stronger overall leadership.
The climate for training of young researchers was considered very good.
There is no real correspondence between the objectives and the achievements and the publications presented.
For the relevant period however the group has 6 projects with the total amount of the funding of approximately 320,000 Euro on which 16 PhDs and two non PhDs have been working. This quite well corresponds to the relatively very good level of IF - 2.39, to the high number of defended PhDs (9), good international cooperation, the contract research with the industry etc.
How largely and effectively the diagnostic methods for Leishmania are applied into the practical life. Are there any other practical implementations.
How the group is planning to be involved into the EC cooperation like 7th FP etc.
Experimental models [RG-AGR-Norte-VilaReal-772-2985]
This is a group of 6 Ph. D. qualified scientists (number of FTE) not given that have separated from the Epidemiosurveillance and Medicine of Animal Populations group, now disbanded. In my preliminary report, I anticipated that this group would develop methods that would be useful to the Pathology and Biomarkers group and the new Epidemiosurveillance group.
The report presented orally during the site visit has caused me to revise this opinion. This group clearly sees its future as a quasi-independent group providing an animal model service provider to local industries rather that as a research unit. They emphasized that the existing small ruminant house does not comply with modern requirements for animal experiments (although we were not shown the building in question when we visited) and this necessarily affects the credibility of their future plans. If this group will develop substantial income from its activities, the question arises if it will need support form FCT.
Research support could be provided for themes such as Vitamin A’s influence during organ morphogenesis, mainly focused in pulmonary morphogenesis and elastogenesis, but no evidence has been provided that the group has neither the necessary human expertise nor the experimental facilities to undertake such work. On the other hand, work on bladder oncology is being conducted with Merck and it is unclear to what extent original research in the highly competitive field of cancer research can be performed in Villa Real, or if the animal facility will merely serve for implementing animal experimentation.

The group is newly starting, so there is no ongoing work to evaluate.
The concept of the group is sound and fits well into the general objectives of the unit Based on the experience and quality of the involved researchers - based on the previous articles in the area – the group should be able to achieve its ambitions.
The unit is striving at a holistic approach comprising research, consulting and outreach to society. How is this group concretely involved in that endeavour?
Who exactly are the stakeholders of this research and are they involved in the planning, priority setting and setup?
Any plans for international (EU) projects?
Food safety and toxicology [RG-X-AGR-Norte-VilaReal-772-1758]
The main goal of the group is food safety and quality with the emphasis on meat and meat products.
For the size of the group wit 5 PhDs and 3 non PhDs it has been quite successful with the funding. Four projects surmount the amount of 275 000 euro for the examined period. The IF of the publications is relatively good - averagely 1.63
The group surprises with the high training activities which correspond to 6 Ms and 4 PhDs
Very good evaluation could be also given to the industry contract research (5) and to the international cooperation
Are there any practical implementations of the results obtained so far?
How the group see its involvement into the future activities of the 7th FP of the EC?

This is a small group (1.5 FTE scientists) composed of ‘integrated scientists’ and ‘collaborators’ that is reforming for the 2007-10 period under the title of Quality and Safety of Animal Products. Their publication record was good, so was the progress in achieving Ph. D. qualifications (2 staff members and 2 non-staff members). Likewise, the record of international collaborations is also very good and they have organized workshops and have established contact with industry.
The site visit did not add any significant elements since no additional documents were provided (in contrast to other groups). My overall impression was that the group was poorly integrated in the unit, and I hope that the change in title for the forthcoming years will be more than cosmetic.
Pathology and biomarkers [RG-AGR-Norte-VilaReal-772-2096]
The panel does not agree with the proposal to break up the old "Epidemiological survey of relevant diseases of livestock animals and medicine of animal populations" research group into three new groups. Please see the comments on the old group
The main goal of the group is to develop biomarkers for early diagnosis of neoplasia in horses and dogs. The group has relatively good ratio between PhDs (9) and non PhDs (5)
The publications presented in the refereed journals have relatively good IF which averagely ranks as 1.7.The other publications and the international cooperation are well presented. The IF of the joint publications internationally is ranking averagely as 1.32
It is not documented that the funding for the period 2007 - 2010 is assured
Industry contract research is satisfactory for the period 2003-2004
Why the horses and the dogs are selected as targets for these type of studies?
Why the equipment has not being renewed during the last 15 years as indicated?
Are there any plans for jointly using of the most sophisticated equipment and facilities?
Are there any plans for participation into the 7th FP of EC?
Quality and food safety of animal products [RG-AGR-Norte-VilaReal-772-2984]
This small group of researchers has very relevant research goals related to the quality and safety of animal products - slaughter animals, game and fish - with particular reference to regional products. Its plans for training students, involvement with industry and dissemination of information are all quite satisfactory. Collaboration both nationally and internationally is satisfactory.
Group organization and leadership are adequate for this small group.
The climate for training of young researchers is good.
This is a small group of 1.5 FTE scientists that lacks critical mass for producing a substantial impact. The project for this new group needs substantial revision. It is presently structured as follows:
- Improving epidemiological studies concerning microbiological hazards in meat and meat products using molecular tools.
- Developing studies to understand and define risks to public and animal health associated with wild game meat.
- Studies on the use of heat and not-heat procedures to preserve of products’ sensorial specificities.
- Studies of meat quality namely tenderness and the proteolytic processes that occur during transformation of muscle into meat.
- Evaluation/increase of shelf life based on the control of spoilage microflora.
- Assessment of the factors that determine sensory characteristics of meat and meat products.
Many of these themes are already studied elsewhere in Europe, and demand laboratory equipment and access to animal experimentation facilities that are absent in Vila Real. For example, what molecular tools are to be used for the first item? Nowadays, microarray technology has been developed to detect multiple contaminants in a single sample, but the necessary equipment was not shown when we visited the labs. There was no mention of how game meat would be obtained (would it be at the slaughterhouse or from hunters?). The third and fourth themes are already widely studied, while the last can only be envisaged seriously with a very well-equipped laboratory. It must be underlined that this group has requested appropriate housing as a top priority as they are presently in an unsuitable and unsafe building.
The group could certainly develop work of interest by concentrating on local meat products, much in the way that the group in Bragança has developed their future research agenda. In fact, it would be a good idea if the two laboratories got together and pooled their resources (creating a critical mass of scientists) to concentrate on research relative to the quality and safety of meat products from the Trás-os-Montes region. I would also urge them together to consult with other European groups with an established reputation in the area of food quality and safety. This is a chance to create a regional pole of excellence around local products arising from primary products from alternative and sustainable agricultural systems that are transformed by local industries; in this way, the groups can contribute to the sustainable economic development of this interesting region of Portugal.

Comentários da unidade

CECAV considers that the classification is far from being in accordance with the achievements we succeeded since the contract signed with FCT for the period 2003-2005 later extended until the end of 2006.
We consider the statement that CECAV “delivered well on its main objectives” is clearly below the facts. The true information of the CECAV activity has been annually sent to FCT, was given to the Panel members and is shown in the CECAV webpage.
Focusing on the items of evaluation “productivity and relevance” (Guidelines for Evaluators), the ratio of ISI articles/researcher was 0.59 in 2003, 1.06 in 2006, 1.32 in 2007 and 1.86 in 2008 (until now). About 55% of the ISI articles were published in the best 25% journals listed by IF.
During 2007 and 2008, three research contracts were signed with multinational companies amounting ca 100 000€. They are duly documented in UTAD. Two other contracts are being negotiated with two multinational companies (Bayer and Merial). This confirms the impact of the scientific work we have performed. Therefore, the evaluation as “below potential”, “satisfactory” or “good” does not recognize the true value of the scientific activity of CECAV.
The Panel considers that “there has been a very significant increase in post graduate training” but this item is later assessed as “good”. We are aware that the relative PhD output of CECAV was underevaluated when compared with other Units in this area.
The Panel states that “facilities are rather basic”. However, the new facilities for Veterinary teaching and research were shown and praised by the Panel and it was informed of the projects under way for new animal facilities and veterinary laboratories. Some of them are already contracted with government. The Panel was also informed that a large number of chemical analyses are done in the Centre of Chemistry of UTAD to rationalize the utilization of equipments.
Reading the reports of other Units in this area, we did not find sound reasons to the proposed classification of CECAV. Contradictions are obvious when there is information to compare the scientific achievements among Units in the area. To make this process clear, it is necessary to provide information that is not available namely in the Units webpage as FCT recommended early in 2007 as part of the evaluation process.
Therefore, we apply for a re-evaluation of CECAV.